Tuesday, February 17, 1998 Published at 10:11 GMT
Kofi Annan: Man with a mission
Oliver Conway considers the qualities possessed by the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan who is facing one of the toughest challenges of a long and distinguished career
Jordanian foreign minister Fayez al-Tarawanah describes the proposed visit by Kofi Annan to Baghdad as the last chance for peace: "He is maybe the only one capable of putting a political solution to the whole crisis ... this is the last card in the hand, and that's why there is a growing backing for his mission to the region."
Mr Annan was a UN diplomat for three decades before he won election to the Secretary Generalship. He has held senior positions in some of the UN's most difficult departments, and before his election was head of UN peacekeeping.
According to Dr Mats Berdal of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, it was in peacekeeping that Mr Annan won his reputation for getting results without confrontation, and where he won the support of many nations that later voted for him as Secretary General:
"He has a very non-confrontational style of management. He gets on very well with most members of the Security Council, particularly with troop contributing countries. He's sensitive to their concerns and responds very quickly to any queries from them."
Speaking shortly after his selection, Mr Annan set out his agenda: "I think my priorities will be working with the member states of the organisation, to redefine the goals of the United Nations. As we move into the 21st Century, I think it is important that we ask ourselves: what should the United Nations be doing?"
Reaching consensus on that was not going to be easy. Developing countries are always keen to see the UN doing more to tackle poverty and related issues, while much of the Western industrialised world is more concerned with matters such as human rights and democracy.
Last year Mr Annan unveiled a wide-ranging reform package, designed to cut waste and increase the responsiveness of the UN to crises such as the one over Iraq.
"The reforms I am proposing are bold reforms. They are the most extensive, far-reaching reforms in the 52 year history of our organisation. The aim is simple, to transform the organisation, to bring greater unity of purpose, greater coherence of efforts and greater agility in responding to an increasingly dynamic and complex world."
He had earlier showed that he could get tough with the US when he asked it to pay the $1.3bn dollars it owes to the UN. And this despite the fact that the US had single-handedly vetoed a second term for his Mr Boutros Ghali.
Agility and toughness
He himself ascribed the resolution of a similar crisis over Iraq late last year to the negotiating power of the UN: "The resolve and the determination to carry through has paid off, but it also proves that diplomacy sometimes works, and you don't always have to fight to win."
Will he be able to say the same this year? If so, He will need all his resolve and determination.